Monday, November 17, 2008

Fraser Sutherland on the GG Shortlist

Fraser thinks the list is crap. Which seems to be the consensus, from talking to people in Victoria over the weekend. The list is usually crap, but this year is especially weird. One thing Fraser doesn't mention is that one of the nominees, Jacob Scheier's More to Keep Us Warm, was blurbed by one of the jurors, Pier Giorgio di Cicco, who is thanked by Scheier in the acknowledgements of the book. This happens way, way more often than it should. Which is never. Since the CC obviously doesn't give a shit about enforcing its own conflict of interest policies , perhaps we should have recourse to public shaming. Given the present administration's--I hesitate to call them a government--hostility towards the arts, this is even more important. Blatant conflict of interest/nepotism in the disbursement of taxpayers' money is actually a pretty good argument for making the kind of cuts that Harper has made and would no doubt like to continue making. Smarten up, Canada Council.

19 comments:

Carleton said...

Hey Zach. There's also the apparent fact that, at least according to a review from Prarie Fire posted on the ECW website, Di Brandt actually collaborated on the translation of one of the poems in Jacob Scheier's book, and happened to be one of the GG judges.

I usually find myself objecting to things others don't seem to have a problem with, but who could actually defend doing such a thing? I'm at a loss. Oh well.

Zachariah Wells said...

Holy crap. Brandt is thanked by Scheier for her "ongoing advice, support and feedback in the process of writing this book." Boy, did he ever publish in the right year. I almost hope he wins now, to help with the shaming. This is absolutely ridiculous. It would be a mite more forgivable if the book had merit, but I had a look thru it the other day and it is, as a friend of mine told me, little better than juvenilia (something hinted at in the praise by the "jury" of his "young voice").

Carleton said...

The thing is, Jacob Scheier isn't to blame for this. He had no control over what the GG judges decided. However, because of their decision, he is put in the spotlight in an extremely awkward and unenviable position (at least awkward with respect to people who actually know about the Canadian poetry scene - the general public will never know or hear of such things). Not worth the 'prestige' of being nominated for the GG in my opinion, not when the decision is so blatantly subjective.

Zachariah Wells said...

Right on all counts, Carleton. Obviously, he didn't choose to have his book published the same year that two friends were jurors. And yeah, I feel no envy for his position whatsoever. That said, there's nothing stopping him from coming forward and withdrawing his book from the race. Nothing but the prospect of winning 25 grand, that is...

Evie said...

That second connection was kind of surprising, co-writing a poem in the book would surely be enough for most to recuse themselves from their judicial post. I was conscious of not to let it bias my reading of Scheier's book. I wonder how this will effect how the book is received?

Zachariah Wells said...

Well, it can't do anything good for anyone who's aware of it. But I suspect the benefits of being nominated outweigh the detriments of being nominated unethically.

Daniela said...

One can only wonder. Speechless. Can we keep anything honest, when money is involved?

What are we trading in here? How can one adjust for this deflation?

Ok, I have a question: if it is taxpayers money, shouldn't the public vote on who gets the GG. Like, on our ballot or something?

It may make more people read. :-)

Zachariah Wells said...

Much as I dislike the present way of doing things, Daniela, I shudder to think what a popular ballot would result in! But I've been arguing for some time that non-poet jurors should be included. We have jury duty for courts...

Daniela said...

there is a thought.
have the judges convince the jurors, of the merit of the work.
love it.

Michael Lista said...

I'm not sure how much prestige or is left in the GGs, never mind authority. I don't pay them much mind anymore; I wonder how many poets really do. The money would be nice for anyone, no doubt, but bigger grants are given out in this country to infinitely less fanfare. There are 30 and 40 thousand dollar grants given out by the CALQ. Since the thing has devolved into such a blatant charade of nepotism, with these sorts of inbred connections available for anyone to see (and the awkward quietude surrounding the many infinitely better books that came out this year to silence), how can any dedicated reader of poetry in this country take the GGs seriously? We've got Junta Literature. Thank god these people are only picking our poetry and not our politicians.

Anonymous said...

Guess you're thrilled to hear who won, eh Zach?

Heheh.

Alex said...

By the way, that was me on the previous comment. I didn't mean to be anonymous, it cut me off.

Michael Lista said...

aaaaand Sheier wins.

Carleton said...

Wow. Just wow. That is all.

Susan Glickman said...

This is appalling.

Brian Bartlett said...

A suggestion for those (all too rightly) distressed by this year's gg shortlist:
go out & write & publish reviews of some of the best shortlist-neglected books of the year, such as Donaldson's Palilalia, O'Meara's Noble Gas, Penny Black, Miller's The Day in Moss, Dodds' Crabwise to the Hounds (a couple of these may have been too late for the year's list?)-- and, for that matter, Moritz's The Sentinel... The power of such books will long outlast the ephemera of the awards system (at least the judges got it right last with Domanski)

NigelBeale said...

I interviewed David Gilmour several years ago after he won the GG for fiction. The best novel of the year I asked. No, the best jury he responded.

He continued with some funny, intelligent things to say about awards. Listen here if so inclined: http://nigelbeale.com/?p=41

Brian Campbell said...

The jury guidelines should be as follows: they can only judge books which they have blurbed or in which they've had a helping hand. Then they wouldn't have to go to such lengths to keep up this pretension of judging all those books. It would make the evaluation process far more efficient, make things far less ambiguous for the rest of us.

And I'm not sure why Harper would disapprove of these awards: he awards cabinet and top civil service posts on the same principles. As they say, taking patronage out of politics is like taking sex out of marriage.

Now, what other modest proposal can I make?

Anonymous said...

I think it is funny and somewhat strange that Jacob Scheier fails to thank Ms. Di Brandt in his acceptance speech for his GG. I mean, that is just SO rude! After all, she collaborated on this work...no?